Well, If you may remember in Xiamen I had my shoes fixed by an old man for a pound, well that lasted a month and my shoes are no more. I took them on one last trip, Horse Trekking in Songpan, Many people laughed at my shoes when I showed them the damage, including our guides on the trek, and then they showed me their damaged shoes. Here is a picture of the extent...
Shows how the sole has completely come off, over the trip the right foots sole almost came completely off. They have served me well for over 8 years but have now been consigned to the bin.
Anyway, me and my horse! ...
They were smaller than English horses. Mine was called Hui Hui and was cheeky but friendly. Although I had reigns, the Horse was always in control doing whatever it wanted. On some of the steeper climbs it got a bit hairy but I had complete faith in my Steed, also what they say in Animal Farm 'Four legs are better than two'.
Day one we trekked to a campsite where they proper survival style cut down trees to make a large tent and a fire (the tea was the first thing that went on).
Next and this is just to prove how damn cold it was, it snowed heavily all night long. Here I am entering my tent at 10 in amongst the full on snow...
Next day we awoke up to a winter wonderland, and a local farmer herding a load of Yak through our campsite!
This was a day of ascending the mountain, before we left 4 of our party went back to Songpan ill. This was in itself a blessing, because now it meant we could stay in the Tibetan families house as there would now be space. we went up to Ice Mountain but could not see it due to the clouds. A short trip back to the Tibetan House for lunch/dinner/fire/cards and it was time for bed, when I wake up it would be my birthday, and as a special treat the sun shone and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We could see Ice mountain and all the other surrounding mountains. I hadn't seen a proper blue sky in China for a very long time so this was quite unexpected.
That's my horse trekking trip in brief. It was totally worth it and the freezing night in the tent only makes you stronger, Tibet may be even colder so this should be a good warmup. Am back in Chengdu while Tibet is sorted out, its warm here, like england, t-shirt and shorts weather. Yesterday I ate Scorpion, Centipedes, beetles and worms. Then we went out to a club where westerners drank for free.
Next up as mentioned is Tibet, all is going fine just waiting for a permit before an 8 day tour of the famous land, including a trip to Everest base camp. Then a flight to Beijing and a train to Qingdao for a boat to Korea, I will be sad to leave as I love this country but it's time for something different.
In responding to a message from David, I realised my response might be of note, more observations of China. He asked me about the Royal Wedding, China as an unfathomable place, changes and signs of dissent so here we go;
'I've got oddly patriotic about the queen actually. Guess its being away as usually im a staunch republican.
Its still as unfathomable, some things just don't make any sense; Traffic, shopping, customs, and drinking all seems to vary from place to place. Its hard to go in to but this country is crazy and awesome at the same time. I.E Westerners drinking Whiskey (Chivas Regal) in a club for free just because we are western and they want more westerners to drink in their club, no idea why, it was busy and full of young, hip and rich Chinese. But I won't complain when the drinks are free :)
Sichuan is closed to foreigners in places due to it being too tense but we've seen no trouble here at all. So apparently there is some dissent. But otherwise theres none what so ever, things are going well for China so must rich people don't give two hoots, and well the poor are quite happy just to go about there business.
I went to Songpan which was affected by the Earthquake two years ago, there were signs that said things like "Freeway 217 earthquake Ruins" and then you'd see a huge rock lying in the middle of the old road or a bridge halfway over a river and the rest lying in the river, was quite epic, there was as usual massive construction going along almost the whole 5 hour trip to Songpan.
China is different than before, but its also very similar. Tourism is going to change the place over the next few years and not in a good way in my opinion. Imagine one nice tourist town in Britain, then Clone it and turn every other tourist destination into an exact replica. Thats what China are doing with the 'tourist' sites. Identical roads of shops selling the same knock off souvenirs. It doesn't make any sense and im kinda pissed off with it. One of the unfathomable things I guess. In Songpan, Emma who ran the restuarant and tour advice was annoyed too, as they'd had a lovely sign made by some French guys for her restaurant but the government is forcing her to remove it and have a sign exactly the same style as every other shop/restaurant in the whole street with the same facade on the front too.
Then they go ahead and label the place an 'old town' which can't be any further from the truth. Its stifling originality and makes no sense, why visit a town that looks the same as the last town you visited and sells the same knick knacks?Like I've said previously, China will be a very different place in 5 years. I wonder if they will see the error of their ways, but I doubt it, homegrown tourism is booming and no one seems to care that these roads all look the same. But this is why I go and do different things, climbing mountains, horse trekking, biking etc.
Also ironically everytime I have one of these 'Chinese Tourism Rant's' I inevitably end up doing the chinese tourist thing. Going to Tibet on an organised 8 day trip with a guide (minder) and driver. But the exception here is Im not allowed to do Tibet any other way.